Saturday, 2 February 2013



By Ian Trussler

Grundy Park Leisure Centre in Cheshunt, Hertfordshire is home to a once very busy and regular Sci-Fi collectors fair. Now in somewhat of a decline, it does still attract some good guest signers.

The most recent event had four Star Wars guests, most of them rare and infrequent signers: these being Pam Rose, Stephanie English, Phil Herbert and Paul Bannon.

Sadly, the event was very poorly supported this time but that gave me a chance to chat freely with the guests.

A make-up/test shot of Pam Rose in costume for the Cantina scenes of the original STAR WARS. Image: Pam Rose.

Pam Rose

Pam played the role of Jeesub Sivin, known simply as "Weird Girl" during production, in the Cantina sequence of Star Wars. She can be seen very briefly on screen, most easily during Luke and Bens conversation with Han and Chewie when hiring the Falcon. She is behind Alec Guiness' right shoulder, standing in profile talking to another cantina patron.

Pam was aged 30 when she filmed the role in 1976 and enjoyed her time on set. She got the role via her agent and the normal audition process. She had started as a model in the 1960's and then moved into film work.

She spent 5 days from a Monday to a Friday filming the sequence. The days were long as she was required to be at Elstree for about 6am to then spend two hours in make up, having the prosthetic head applied together with the facial make up and then getting into costume (image of her in character opposite).

Pam’s make up and prosthetic was applied by Stuart Freeborn and had to be treated very carefully as there was only one actual head piece, the only thing that was renewed on a daily basis was the skin/membrane that attached and covered the join between the head piece and Pam’s forehead. Thankfully it only took an hour each day to remove the make up.

Prior to filming Pam attended Stuart Freeborn’s workshop to have a life cast taken of her head, an experience she likened to being buried alive, very unpleasant. Stuart kindly gave Pam her head cast after she completed her role, and she has kept it all these years and had it with her at the show on display.

Pam’s costume consisted of having to wear a black leotard with black riding boots, over the top of which she wore a silver tunic style dress. The outfit was reasonably comfortable to wear and the head piece was very light, so that wasn't a problem either.

She recalls George Lucas being extremely quiet on set and nobody really took any notice of him as they didn't know who he was, despite his success with American Graffiti. Pam recalls briefly meeting Harrison Ford but told me how her then friend, Jenny Creswell, who played Han Solo’s girlfriend in the film, found kissing Harrison Ford to be most unpleasant, something I'm sure many people around the world would find hard to believe.

Pam said that all the extras were treated very well on the film and well paid for the work, unlike today where you are poorly paid and treated like cattle much of the time. Pam is still quite active in the world of extra work her most recent film being the Frances McDormand movie "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day". Pam’s other work includes a recurring role in Space:1999 and Superman 1, 2 and 4 (she adored Christopher Reeve, saying he was lovely to all the cast, although he had a huge problem with sweating, which often delayed filming) among many other productions.

This event was only Pam’s third appearance at a convention, although she would very much like to do more, especially abroad, but it seems that she is rarely asked to attend, and like all the guest’s told me it seems the correct convention protocol is to wait to be asked, never to approach a promoter yourself. She is a little disappointed that her character hasn't been made into an action figure yet as she would really like that happen sometime.

Although still involved in the film business, Pam spends most of her time running her Fun Casino business for parties and events. She was a delight to chat to, very much a rough diamond, very down to earth and full of stories from the many productions she has worked on. It would be great to see her at a Star Wars Celebration one day.

Stephanie English (seated) with Ford and Bruce Boa during a scene from EMPIRE.

Stephanie English

Stephanie played the part of a Rebel Controller in the Hoth Rebel Base Command Centre sequence of The Empire Strikes Back. She can be seen on screen with the likes of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Bruce Boa.

She got the part just by being sent up for the audition by her agent, she really didn't know what it was she was getting involved with. Despite the already huge success of Star Wars she didn't really have much knowledge of it. This was just another job for her.

She spent a week on set at Elstree and doesn't have a huge amount of memories of the time but did meet Harrison briefly during one of their scenes together and also recalls being told off by Anthony Daniels for smoking in between takes one day.

Although they were not really allowed to take photos on set, many people did and Stephanie told me she has several photos of her behind the scenes on Empire. Sadly she didn't bring them to the show as she didn't think people would be interested. I told her how wrong she was and that fans love to see rare pictures, so she vowed to bring them to the next event she does. (See them here: Stephanie English Retro Star Wars tribute,)

Again, Stephanie has done very few conventions due to not being asked and has only recently started appearing after the son of a friend of hers returned from a Celebration event and told her about all the autograph guests, upon which she piped up with "I worked on The Empire Strikes Back" and then started to make enquires about getting involved in the convention circuit.

She is still involved in film and television work, and recalled to me that her favourite star she met was Donald Sutherland, but she didn't care for Kiefer Sutherland much when she worked with him on Chicago Joe and the Showgirl.

A very nice and friendly lady, still amazed at work popular Star Wars is, hopefully we will see more of her and those rare pics at future conventions.

Paul Bannon

Paul Bannon is still very much a working actor and has the pleasure of being in the first episode of each of the Star Wars trilogies, those being the original Star Wars (as a Stormtrooper) and The Phantom Menace (as a pod racer).

Paul worked for three weeks on the original movie at Elstree and Shepperton, where he played a Stormtrooper on the Death Star and also a Rebel Guard during the Medal Ceremony. He is one of the green dressed rebels standing behind Leia and General Dodonna. Paul was asked to stay on and work for a further few weeks on Star Wars but decided to move on as he'd had enough of the very uncomfortable Stormtrooper costume. The scene that he particularly recalls working on is the Death Star docking bay when the Falcon has just been captured. He remembers going up and down on the docking bay lift quite a bit as well as having to stand in line with the other troops. Aside from that he doesn't recall exactly what other trooper scenes he is in as it all sort of merged in to one after a while.

Like others have said, nobody took any notice of George Lucas on set, he was very quiet and Paul noticed how George never argued with anyone, even if they disagreed with him, saying George would just quietly say "well, we'll talk about it later".

Paul enjoyed his time at Leavesden working on The Phantom Menace as he had previously worked there on the James Bond movie Goldeneye. He only worked on the studio based Pod Race scenes as he didn't go on location to Tunisia.

Paul is still very busy as he has a recurring role as a stand in for one of the regular actors in the Harry Potter movies and has also just wrapped work on Star Wars luminary Joe Johnston’s remake of The Wolfman, starring Benecio Del Toro and Anthony Hopkins among many other stars.

Hermi Odle makes an impression in Jabba's Palace!

Phil Herbert

Phil played Hermi Odle in Return of the Jedi and I had spoken with him before and didn't gain any new information regarding Jedi, so see my previous blog from Collectormania Milton Keynes for background info.

Phil was in a much brighter mood this time though and talked of how he wants to get more involved in the convention scene, again lamenting the situation of not being asked very often.

We spoke about how he felt disappointed that so much of his work on Jedi was cut out but he accepts that is the nature of the business. He was in fact very upset recently that his role in the Clive Owen movie Children of Men was completely cut. He was invited to and attended the London premiere fully expecting to see himself on screen, only to be asked by his friends after, "where were you?": no one had told him he'd been cut.

Phil has just filmed a public service anti-smoking commercial, playing a pub landlord up to his knees in giant cigarette butts. Ironic given that Phil himself is a smoker.


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